On March 14, 1993, CBS aired "Men Don't Tell," a TV movie about domestic violence starring Peter Strauss and Judith Light. The twist: Strauss's character, construction executive Ed MacAffrey, was abused by his wife Laura, played by Light.
Based on a true story, it dramatizes the story of a loving husband, who is terrorized by the violent behavior of his wife. He had long endured the physical and emotional abuse heaped upon him by his neurotic wife.
He tolerates this not only because he loves her and is concerned over the welfare of his daughter, but also because men are traditionally regarded as weaklings if they allow themselves to be battered by their wives.
After one of Laura's destructive tantrums brings the attention of the police, Ed is suspected of being the aggressor! Finally, Laura goes too far and Ed tries to defend himself--whereupon Laura crashes through the front window of her home and is rendered comatose. Ed is arrested for Domestic Violence and Attempted Murder.
As he is interrogated, he tells his story of years of abuse, and how he even once sought help by calling a domestic violence hotline, only to get scorned and hung up on. This interrogation takes all night, by highly skeptical police.
While this is going on, his children have been taken to their paternal grandfather, himself a retired police officer, to spend the night. In the morning, young daughter, who chose to remain silent through the years of abuse due to the humiliation and shame, asked the grandfather is her mother was in trouble.
This surprised the grandfather, who then asked her why she thought her mother, whom he thought was the victim of his abusive son, would be in trouble? To this she said, "Because mommy hits daddy".
"The most sobering point about 'Men Don't Tell' is that we go into the story conditioned to make jokes about wives hurling rolling pins at their husbands and then starkly witness how unfunny and terrifying it really is," the Los Angeles Times' Ray Loynd wrote.
He continued: "Light's vicious, insecure wife is a harrowing portrait, although ultimately, to the actress's credit, touched with sympathy. Her bleak image in the movie's last scene is shattering under the fine direction of Harry Winer. And Strauss' pummeled husband - whose wife flails him with sudden, sharp fists that are so realistic they make you flinch - is a study of a warmly masculine man who is no wimp, AND NO WIFE HITTER, either."
USA Today's Matt Roush called the film "violent, unsettling and sympathetically acted," while the New York Times' John J. O'Connor praised the leads for their "searing" performances.
The Washington Post's Tom Shales liked "Men Don't Tell," too, praising Light as "superb at bringing out the pathos as well as the hostility in this character."
Although the ending of the story could be considered positive and upbeat, it is painfully clear that there are many issues that will never be resolved. First telecast by CBS on May 14, 1993, according to a New York Times Story, "Men Don't Tell" was never rebroadcast on over-the-air television, reportedly because it incurred the wrath of several women's groups.
"Men Don't Tell" was seen in 18.3 million homes, ranking third among the week's prime time broadcast, behind ABC's "Home Improvement" and CBS's "60 Minutes."
People may think Ed MacAffrey's experience was an isolated case, but according to the "Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women", 39% of the victims are men. That's nearly four of ten cases, yet nearly 100% of the shelters where domestic violence victims can go with their children take only women. Men can experience this type of abuse for years, not wishing to leave his children behind, in the hands of the abuser, and to become the next target.